japan

Some news: we’re moving back to Hawaii this week. I lived there from 2001 to 2008, and met my wife Janey there in 2002. Even though it’s been over 11 years since we left, and I spent my first 20 years in Washington state, I still consider Hawaii home. I wrote a little about what this state means to me a few years ago, in my Hawaii Oxtail Soup recipe. Janey is especially excited to get back to her hometown, and to spend time with friends and relatives we’ve only seen a precious few times during our years away. The boys will be going to the same schools their mother attended as a child, and they’re pretty stoked, too.

So to celebrate this return to home, I’m sharing my mother-in-law’s Nishime (vegetable stew) recipe. To be honest, when we lived there, my wife and I weren’t huge fans of this dish — its earthy and subdued flavors are a far cry from the savory, sweet, and crunchy delights you can find out in town. But since moving away we’ve come to appreciate the comforting warmth that Nishime can impart.

Note that this recipe is difficult to make without access to a local Japanese grocery store. For example, nishime kombu is a softer version of the more popular dashi kombu seaweed you can find in most asian markets, but is not sold online. Similarly, fresh burdock root (gobo) can only be found in person. And finally, you’ll want to find a block of konnyaku (the same material used to make shirataki noodles), which is not easy to find online either. All this is not meant to dissuade you from trying this recipe — far from it — but to let you know that this is a hard recipe to replicate if you don’t have access to a Japanese grocer. And because of its simple seasoning (just a bit of dashi, tamari, and honey), each of the ingredients are pretty important to get that signature nishime flavor (although there is a bit of wiggle room here — losing an ingredient or two won’t break the dish).

I’ll be taking the next two weeks off from posting while we move everything from Virginia to Hawaii. Hope you have a happy holidays and see you after the New Year.

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Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask me to develop a recipe for Chicken Karaage. It just so happened that this past weekend I needed a break from developing recipes for my next cookbook, and I was craving fried chicken, so it felt like the perfect time to work on this fan favorite.

In Japanese, Karaage (唐揚げ) is not necessarily a direct translation of the dish, but rather the cooking method. The first kanji character, 唐, translates to “Tang Dynasty”, or more loosely, “China”, which suggests that this dish was influenced by Chinese cuisine. Chicken Karaage itself has only been recently popular in Japan, mostly over the past 50 years, but it was likely first developed during the Edo period (1603-1868).

The key to a crispy Karaage is to toss the chicken in potato starch to form a light coating right before you drop it in hot oil. I like to use lard when frying chicken, but I’ve heard some amazing things about Chicken Karaage fried in duck fat, so if you have any on hand, maybe try that instead. I like to pair my Karaage with a citrusy Ponzu dipping sauce, but many people also prefer Japanese (Kewpie) mayo.

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It’s been a while since I shared a recipe from one of my cookbooks, and now seems like a perfect time to share one of my favorites from Paleo Takeout: Gyudon! It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m super busy with work stuff right now, promise.

Gyudon, a donburi (rice bowl) dish, first became popular in the 1800s as Japan westernized and started eating more beef. Today, this dish is associated with quick meals. Nearly every Gyudon shop in Japan serves this dish with complimentary Miso Soup.

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Takuan is a Japanese dish of fermented daikon radish. It is a form of Tsukemono (Japanese pickled veggies), which are served as side dishes or snacks, and are even part of the Japanese tea ceremony. Takuan in particular is often served at the end of meal to help digestion. The name “Takuan” is often attributed to Takuan Soho, a 17th century Zen Buddhist figure and the creative basis for the character Dakuan from the anime film Ninja Scroll. Korean cuisine has a similar pickled daikon radish dish, called Danmuji (단무지).

The daikon radish itself made its way to Japan from China about 2,000 years ago. Today, more land in Japan is used to grow daikon than any other vegetable. Takuan sold in many stores today is dyed yellow with food coloring; I was able to get a similar color by using a tiny bit of turmeric while pickling the radishes.

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